All three games in Week 14 of the Kraft Family IFL were dripping with drama, with only one of them going down to the wire but the results of the other two having strong implications on the emerging playoff picture.

Saturday night’s ultra-hyped showdown between the league’s only remaining unbeaten teams turned into a one-sided affair in which the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres dominated the Hasharon Hammers 56-12 to improve to 9-0 and clinch the top seed and a first-round bye.

On Friday morning in Ramle, the expansion Rehovot Silverbacks closed out their season with a 54-8 defeat at the hands of the ISD Jerusalem Kings, who moved to 4-5 on the year with one crucial regular-season contest left next Thursday against the Travel Leaders’ Beersheba Black Swarm.

The Swarm were involved in the weekend’s most breathtaking match, coming out on the losing end of a 56-49 Southern thriller on Thursday night against the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers, who at 7-1 are now still in contention for one of the top two seeds and a much-needed week of rest.

Meanwhile, the dormant Big Blue Jerusalem Lions (5-3), Talpion Judean Rebels (5-4) and Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs (4-5) all saw their playoff destinies affected in one way or another and with just two more weekends of regular-season action remaining, it figures to be a wild roller-coaster of a fortnight coming up.

Breaking down the impact of the Week 14 results, the Sabres still sit atop the standings and hold the spot for good, with only one game left against the Lions. The Hammers (8-1) and Pioneers have yet to face each other, and if Clal can beat the Rebels this Friday, the Hasharon- Tel Aviv clash next Wednesday will be for the all-important second place and a home date in the semifinals.

After the top three spots, the Lions and Rebels are both still in play for fourth, with Big Blue hosting the rejuvenated Petah Tikva Troopers this Wednesday before finishing at the Sabres on March 2. If the Judeans can top the Pios this week to get to 6-4, the Lions will need to win out to claim third, although either way they will being playing a firstround game in the friendly environs of Kraft Stadium.

The Rebels have already clinched a postseason berth through all the various potential tie-breaker permutations, however the Kings, Black Swarm and Underdogs will all be hanging closely on the result of Friday’s game at Tel Aviv University.

Both Nemo’s and ISD have one game left to get to .500, with Haifa visiting the Northern Stars and the Kings traveling to Beersheba. The Swarm have two games remaining, hosting both the Kings and Stars, and needing to win both to keep their slim hopes alive.

The bottom line is that there is really only one open playoff spot, with the Underdogs, Kings and Swarm all having various degrees of chances to nab it.

Haifa makes the dance if it beats Nahariya and either the Rebels beat the Pioneers or the Kings lose to the Black Swarm.

The Kings will edge into the playoffs by a nose if they beat Beersheba and either the Rebels lose to the Pioneers or the Northern Stars upset the Underdogs.

Beersheba really has only an outside chance of qualifying, needing to the top the Kings and also have Nahariya beat Haifa to get in.

The upshot of it all is that there are almost too many storylines to keep track of heading into the final month of the sixth season of tackle football in Israel and this version of “IFL March Madness” figures to be the most scintillating one yet.

With Purim on the horizon this week, the IFL has a threegame slate on tap. On Wednesday night, former Stanford QB Garrett Moore and the Troopers pay a visit to Big Blue, while Friday features the intriguing Rebels-Pioneers battle at Tel Aviv University. Saturday night will see the Northern Stars make the long trek across the country to take on Beersheba in the first (and maybe only) Kvish 6 Cup.

For full Kraft Family IFL standings, stats and schedule, as well as for more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit www.israel-football.co.il

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